Laura Ellen Joyce


Her body is a miracle in the house. Copper sulphite leaks from her. The sink blooms with a little mould, a little sparkle.

She hacks up gluey blood that glitters in the dark. He forms it into party loops, pinned to every surface.

He sits with her and reads.

He licks his finger, dabs it through her crystals.

They dance. Each motion is blinding. She sinks, asthmatic, back into the bed.

There are thirty-one television sets in the room. No sound. Adults dress as giant rabbits on screen. The guilty glow of their skin is blued with static.

Later -- on his hand -- a preparatory gob of spit. After -- he emerges like pyrite from her shudder.

Another television set shows matadors in their stiff, gilded jackets, their pulses visible at the throat as they stab at drugged beasts.

He picks up his viola and remembers nothing, not even nursery rhymes.

The bow has been dismantled, the horsehair used to clean out rivulets and gulleys in the mineral creep.

His hand is rosin-muted, a soft, dry instrument. He drags it over E E E. The sound fills him up. There are no acoustics any longer, the notes bend back from crystalled surfaces and are swallowed.

There is a shaking as he plays. Her dolls, in their glass cabinet, judder inside his frequencies. The blue rot cracks a little, and unpins them from the wall. A minor avalanche hits the bed. Plastic arms, and glass eyes shower her; shards of celestine cut her face.

It has been a month since Christmas and their gifts are still wrapped. Except for one. She wears her favourite from him; a tiny golden spoon on a chain -- it nestles with her locket. A family photo sits in miniature on her clavicle. The smell of cocaine is sharp on her tongue as she rubs her thumb across the faces of her four children. There is a white sheet of nothing between her. She is gone.

He makes a fort for her from television sets, bubblewrap, pizza boxes; a humument of trash.

There are three rails of clothing beside the bed. Two of the rails are barnacled. Hems, waists, belts peek out. A ballgown cuts a swerve in the air, whip-sharp and encrusted. One rail is unscathed. He removes armfuls of clothing. He layers the structure with silk blouses, cotton summerdresses, anything light and sheer. The entrance is garlanded in lace panties, in black hose, in glossy hold ups. Soft through the fabric, the televisions hum white.

She stiffens beneath.

It has been four days and he moves at last. He enters the bath slowly -- lowers himself into sharps. Two candles are left; he lights one -- preserving the other. The room burns blue. A vamped cathedral of waste.

Next door even the flies are dying. They dive and taste and choke on gleaming dust. But they never seem to lessen.

He unplugs the televisions, all but one. It is tuned to an infomercial about costume jewellery. The presenter is very tall, her blonde hair is close cropped. Her arm rattles with bangles, a gem flashes from her invisaligned teeth. Brittle, bright sounds come from her. He turns the set off.

He lets the dark settle.

She glows, unaided, in her cold pyre.

On the last day there is an electrical storm and he sees that he is fucked. Ash rises and turns the snow blue. The smell is obscene. A hollow creeps through the ground. A crater emerges. He cannot hide her any longer.

Men come. They wear white masks and bat away the heavy sweep of flies. They wear gloves as they dismantle his sculpture.

First they fill the evidence bags with her intimate garments -- jagged panties stiff with crystals, stockings, singed from the television heat. Then they dismantle the bier. They take hammers and break apart the television sets. The last section collapses. An awesome light floods in.

They place her on industrial scale. She is heavier than she looks. They slit the mulchy flesh and out pour her jewels.

Her ribs are wishboned -- the pacemaker gleaned from her innards. It has stuck at 348. The doctor shivers at the violence of this number in her body.

Her heart is a snowglobe; blue lace agate shimmers on to the gurney.

Her flesh is a sheet of rice paper that folds. It is unbruised.

She tests positive for five substances: kyanite; apatite; celestine; lepidolite; and chrysocolla.

She is nothing but crystal.

Her lips are silver foil. Two teeth remain in the pulpy yaw.

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LAURA ELLEN JOYCE has published a novel, The Museum of Atheism (Salt Publishing, 2012), and a novella, The Luminol Reels (Calamari Archive, 2014). Her short fiction has appeared in Metazen, Paraxis, Spork, Succour, and in the anthologies Murmurations. (Two Ravens: 2011), and The New Gothic (Stone Skin: 2014). Her critical work has appeared on, and